The plateau of human mortality: Demography of longevity pioneers

Science. 2018 Jun 29;360(6396):1459-1461. doi: 10.1126/science.aat3119.


Theories about biological limits to life span and evolutionary shaping of human longevity depend on facts about mortality at extreme ages, but these facts have remained a matter of debate. Do hazard curves typically level out into high plateaus eventually, as seen in other species, or do exponential increases persist? In this study, we estimated hazard rates from data on all inhabitants of Italy aged 105 and older between 2009 and 2015 (born 1896-1910), a total of 3836 documented cases. We observed level hazard curves, which were essentially constant beyond age 105. Our estimates are free from artifacts of aggregation that limited earlier studies and provide the best evidence to date for the existence of extreme-age mortality plateaus in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Demography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Longevity*
  • Male
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Proportional Hazards Models